FLY314: Saint Louis Airport: Local Approval & Public Opinions

Saint Louis International Airport (Lambert Field) has been given a chance to operate more like a business under a private lease with the City of Saint Louis. This FLY314 media clip provides some public outreach results from public opinions collected by First Rule Focus Groups on April 5th, 2017. Since city voters own this airport, only city voter beliefs were collected at this time. Stay tuned for more FLY314 polling results for the entire Saint Louis Region.

Learn More at


Miami Seaplane History is Rich Near Coconut Grove

Miami Seaplane

Recently, our company made the Florida move to pursue a stronger interest in angel investing startups related to our media network strategy. Since sixty-eight cents of every film media production dollar is typically spent in Southeast Florida, a move to Miami made sense. Previously, our company had offices in Naples, Florida. For whatever reason, seaplane operations seemed less important than perhaps the Caribbean island hopping adventures available from my new location in Coconut Grove.

The first thing on the water that you learn from Miami’s bay is that tides matter in a vast sets of channels that ebb and flow. After an initial SeaRay cruise and one jet ski adventure, we learned that there are special water lanes dredged for the once prominent Pan Am seaplane base. This romantic period in aviation lasted between 1934 and roughly 1954 within Southeast Florida. While my floatplane rating was completed near Talkeetna, Alaska on Piper Pacer Floats, many of these flights were on planes that came in belly-first. Although the days of commercial seaplane operations have past, Miami still has an active charter system with daily flights in and out of the bay to places like the Bahamas.

I think that it is fair to say that floatplane flying is still one of the most peaceful and enjoyable pastimes available to any pilot fortunate to log that time. In my opinion, there are several reasons for this. First, with seaplane flying, there’s never going to be a great drone or autopilot substitute for stick and yoke feel in and out of the water. When you first learn to “get up on the step” you realize that you’re literally converting a boat into a plane with throttle and skill. No one has to remind a student pilot to “aviate first” when you’re about to complete a glassy water landing. Second, it is impossible not to feel bonded to nature when you’re on floats – at the dock, in the lake, over the Keys, or watching the sun make another pass to the back side of the earth. Third, when you are flight planning on floats, you’re almost always going somewhere to relax or have a good time. Fishing a virgin lake near Mt. McKinley in Alaska. Making a run over Key Largo to meet some friends after a long day of fishing. Unlike our many days as private pilots hurrying up and waiting on a cold tarmac somewhere, typically a floatplane day is one goes with the flow.

I have found that many people who live close to the water have never tried a seaplane excursion. If you’re in Coconut Grove, give it a shot.

Kansas Learjets Fly like Sinatra, Dance like Lady Gaga

A recent New York Magazine detailed how money used to walk (or rather, fly) in the days of Frank Sinatra, by Learjet.  Celebrities, Chief Executive Officers, and charter clients alike have long relied on the Kansas-inspired aircraft platform for more than four decades.

Even the learjet airframe seems crafted like Kansas Governor Sam Brownback – focused, fast, and relentless towards the pursuit of less drag.  What Governor Brownback has engineering by removing a state income tax for many small businesses may enable a faster economic growth rate.  By flattening his tax code, his Midwestern efforts may make his economy just like the custom-built Kansas learjets – ready to fly direct, sharp, and high.

I don’t have any time flying a Learjet. My opinions are based upon its hangar reputation and pilot gossip.  Without paying much attention to it, it seems that I hear of landing gear complications the most out of any squawk.  One time outbound from a lobbying run out of the Jefferson City airport, I saw one come in with gear/brake/reverse thruster issues.  Fortunately for the crew that day, they skirted off the side of the runway without personal injury. However, their jet was down for maintenance there for several weeks, along with their pilots’ wounded egos.

Perhaps if I had had a different start in government affairs, or an earlier start in general aviation, I might have worked my behind into an older Learjet.  However, now, I have become a loyal believer in efficiency through large and diverse payloads.  For most of my missions, I will gladly choose my Swiss army transport plane full of everything I can think of before my startup.

However, for those used to flying high and fast, with fewer than five passengers and not much gear, the Lear will remain their 446 knot per hour workhorse.  Plus, as my wife once observed leaving Midway Chicago airport, there may be nothing as sleek as seeing Lady Gaga swing out of a jet black Learjet.  Apparently, Sinatra is not the only famed musician that enjoys the rarified air to the tune of “come fly with me.”

Winter Mountain Flying in Colorado

A recent tax reform meeting along the way on my “How Money Walks” book tour brought me back to a favorite airport: KEGE, or Eagle, CO airport.

Winter time always seems to require private pilots to negotiate some kind of instrument approach into places like Vail Valley, Aspen, or Steamboat, CO. This past trip was no different – we shot a LDA 25 instrument approach.

Mountain flying for me brings back the core motivations that drives instrument pilots to stay proficient. The stakes are high. Precision approach details need to sing into symphonic harmony like Mumford and Sons on guitar.

Another reason that mountain flying is neat is because it reminds us just how variable our planet Earth can be even within short distances. Lobbying your departure procedures can vary from range to range. A nice day in Telluride could be not so nice in Salida. Cloud layers on a gentle day could still mean turbulent winds above the Rockies.

If you’re meant to fly, make sure you get some Rocky Mountain logbook time west of Denver when you have the opportunity.

A Progressive Look at Missouri Aviation History, From An OshKosh Cockpit

By Travis H. Brown

One week from now, every aviator around North America starts to ponder the same question:  why didn’t I go to the OshKosh, Wisconsin airventure this year?  With more than 10,000 aircraft paraded in a progressive march over more than half a million spectators, there are many who certainly will be there year after year.

Even if you cannot dump a few items out of your bucket list this year, the celebrations at OshKosh still serve a vital role in capturing our unique aviation culture.  OshKosh reminds us that people build airplanes, and our human spirits are the relentless lobbyists for adventure.  Watching a few timeless voices is proof of just how far we have come in less than 100 years.

Missourians have played many progressive roles in keeping our skies safe.  If you get a chance to thank an engineer, a test pilot, or a war bird veteran, please pay it forward any way that you can advocate.

Five Scenarios for A Missouri Lobbyist to Use General Aviation

By Travis H. Brown

Contract lobbyists that survive past ten years of state & local experience know all too well that time is usually the most limiting variable within your professional services.   Clients seem to want help promoting, passing, progressing, or defeating legislation at the same time periods within any given legislative session.  While State Capitols may vary, the demands on a corporate client’s industry most often requires a state affairs director to juggle one day in Jefferson City with another meeting in Columbus.

For lobbyists less familiar with precisely what general aviation offers those who may be influence-peddling in the morning, while campaigning in the afternoon, I offer the following five Jimmy from Seinfeld scenarios to explain how plane makes for gain:

  1. Lobbyist Travis Brown has a Sunday night meeting with healthcare clients who cannot easily meet during the week in Kansas City.  Due to their prolonged dinner meeting, a late night return drive is no longer optimal.  An early Monday morning hearing or legislative briefing before 9 am in Jefferson City prompts Lobbyist Travis Brown to shorten his two hour car ride into one 30 minute flight to optimize both meeting slots.
  2. Lobbyist Travis Brown needs to meet several new candidates for office that his clients may wish to support for higher office.  Three of the top five candidates are having their major fundraisers or town hall debates within the same week.  Each of the candidates are from completely opposite corners of Missouri, making a show me state drive or shared commute with other lobbyists impractical.  Due to campaign deadlines, and future travel obligations, lobbyist Travis Brown chooses to flight plan all candidates within one full day of short excursions.
  3. Lobbyist Travis Brown has held an important ballot strategy dinner appointment in Saint Louis with a major client and his guests for eight weeks now.  However, after a long day of legislative committee hearings in Jefferson City, followed by two Capitol Lobbying Days on the same afternoon, Travis is running late to make his dinner on time.  To make matters worse, an emergency meeting with a State Senator has been called for 9:30 pm back at the State Capitol on a pressing policy matter.  Travis Brown chooses to correct his schedule by compressing four hours in a car into less than one hour to and from the State Capitol with time to spare for his last caucus meeting.
  4. Lobbyist Travis Brown has agreed to speak at both a morning radio show in Springfield and a chamber of commerce debate in Joplin months in advance on the same day.  Within the last 72 hours, it becomes important to attend an issue advocacy conference in Washington, DC that starts bright and early the next morning.  Since Travis can be joined by copilots and his film production crews if he flies, he arranges private aviation to make all of his travel segments on time.
  5.  Lobbyist Travis Brown is having a great legislative session in Jefferson City, but has seen little of his newest industry client near the Missouri River.  His government affairs client handles state & local public affairs across at least eight Midwestern States.  Due to new industry regulations and several crisis communication projects, his client is only available to meet this week in Chicago.  As it turns out, Travis was headed to Des Moines, Iowa earlier on the same day, after his legislative testimony was finished mid-week in Jefferson City.  By flying onto Chicago from Des Moines, Travis is able to join the industry meeting and compress a three day slot of client prospect travel into one overnight trip.

I use these third person references because my life, and the lives of others on which I depend, have been improved through the vigilant use of general aviation.  America is a big place, and lobbying across the fifty states and some major cities can quickly take its toll as a carpet-bagging frequent flyer.  While using airplanes is very important to me since I am my own owner-operator pilot, it is also very important to thousands of small communities.  The Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) produced some great studies that outline the 1.2 million jobs that are sustained by one flight after another.  Many Governors themselves depend on private pilots themselves, or are familiar with how worldwide aircraft manufacturing is lead from states like Kansas, Georgia, Missouri, or Washington.

Like most freedoms, the price to use it is responsibility.

A Proud History of Flying Missouri Bombers

By Travis H. Brown

These days, lobbying for defense contracts within the U.S. Air Force is big money for the Saint Louis RegionBoeing St. Louis appears to have scored a large contract for C-17s, a great flying aircraft that I have had the pleasure to operate (at least from their very elegant flight simulator at Lambert Field).

I believe that aviation can touch all of our lives in meaningful ways, even if it is primarily-designed for our Armed Forces, and not Southwest Airlines.  One great way to share these experiences is from looking backwards into our past.

To experience aviation history, our Saint Louis Science Center has wonderful exhibits that go back at least to Charles Lindbergh here.  Other wonderful collections, such as Boeing Field’s Museum of Flight, also have a wonderful array of living metal history.

But, let’s be clear:  nothing beats flying the real thing off a runway.  This week, in Jefferson City, Missouri, of all places, was an authentic B-17 Flying Fortress.  The notion that aviators (like my uncle in WWII) could equip gunners to invade the Pacific or Berlin in this tail-dragging plane still seems amazing.

If you get a chance to kick the tires of this aircraft, or even fly in one with an EAA aviation program like this one in Jefferson City, jump on it!  Along the way, if a veteran helped make your adventure possible, give him or her thanks for his/her services for our freedoms.

Here’s a quick video lobbying you in case you can head up near the State Capitol to see this bird in person.

Why Every Pilot Needs Alaskan Time

By Travis H. Brown
Two years ago, I had the privilege of flying ourselves in a Piper Meridian up to Talkeetna, Alaska near Denali National Park. To anyone who likes the great outdoors who has not been to Alaska, simply carpe diem and go. The main purpose of this article to lobby you a bit on why all private pilots would love it. For the non-pilots, you have been warned to expect lots of aeronautical jargon in this post.

Final Approach, Juneau, AK

First of all, Alaska truly is America’s final frontier for pilots, if you don’t count this skydiving in near outer space adventure. The setting, the challenges, the weather, and the logistics all make Alaska the perfect place to become or maintain your currency as an aviator. Private pilots truly are the lifelines that make Alaska function faster (no disrespect to boatsmen or crab fishermen). In fact, many towns, including their State Capitolat Juneau, are virtually unreachable by car or foot.

Getting up there is just half of the fun. We overflew Canada into Ketchikan by instrument flight rules, originating from Boeing field in Seattle. Others hopping VFR (visual flight rules) can follow the river pathways up Western Canada. Once you’re in Southeast Alaska, however, you’re still probably at least 600 nautical miles from Anchorage or many other places that most visit. Alaska’s tremendous mass makes even the fastest Sovereign jet crew appreciate it.

Our trusted Piper Meridian on the Pacific Front

Alaska is so unique that it commands its own aviation laws, and separate weather operations by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Following these meteorological websites, including the numerous airport webcams, is well worth doing even weeks in advance of your trip to get a sense for their seasons and varied conditions. Make sure to set aside more space and weight in your envelope to carry the mandatory equipment in your aircraft, such as fishing gear and life preservers. Personally, it was a great peace of mind having a satellite-based communicator such as SPOT© on aboard as well as an emergency backup.

I flew to Talkeetna, Alaska to meet Don Lee, a famed float and bush-plane pilot whose recent fame includes roles on Alaska Wing Men by the National Geographic channel. Within hours of exchanging my high and fast turboprop, I was stick and ruddering low and slow over the Salmon streams. When you’re flying with Don Lee, a man who hitchhiked to Alaska at 18, you’re soaking in exactly what it is be a true bush pilot – an outdoorsman, a pioneer, and a lifesaver.

Bush or floatplane flying returns all pilots to their first loves in flying:  the freedom of liftoff in backcountry, aviating before navigating, and the kinship of seeing the mountains from their shoulders, not their base. At Don Lee’s headquarters, pilots could land on his lake, or journey up to Talkeetna to join the other ski planes chartered by the hour above and across Mt. McKinley.

IMC Alaskan time in your logbook quickly gives you more respect for how and why military approaches have led to wide area augmentation system (WAAS) innovations. Often, there is no margin for error when cloud layers threaten your arrival, so be prepared for a plan C or D.

Another unique aspect of floatplane flying is that all bodies of water are public in which to land. Moreover, given the limitations of dense forests, glaciers, and mountain valleys, there are many more places to land a floatplane than any wheeled make and model. For a Midwestern pilot, this makes your entire flight planning experience feel like a new adventure.

Landing on floats in uninhabited finger lakes should also refine your proficient use of depth perceptions, as well as your commitment to best practices within the numbers of your plane. Unlike your stop and goes in the patterns of the “lower 48,” you’ll want to hang out a rod and reel after you master that glassy water touchdown.

Finally, Alaskan flight time is sure to give you a full mind, body, & spirit work-out, especially if you’re having fun with a local expert who knows the terrain. It is a great place to add a rating, retain your proficiency, or build a new outdoor excursion.

My time there was in late May and early June, where hikers were ascending for mountain peaks as bears were descending for salmon rivers. I was surprised to learn how diverse their calendar year of flying has become. Many do ski plane runs near Denali in the month of March, and January is often the busiest charter plane month for those carting winter tourists out of Fairbanks. If your plane calls for fuel additives such as PRIST, remember to bring it with you as the locals may look at you funny in the old stomping grounds of Don Sheldon’s Wager with the Wind.

The cost for my professional time is at a premium. But aviator calls to me about Alaska are always free but wild roaming.

Spot© is registered copyright or trademark of 2012 Spot LLC.

Warning: Taking Up General Aviation can hurt Your Golf Game

By Travis H. Brown
I knew it was a likely trade when I started flight lessons nearly a decade ago. As my total time in flight increased, the free time available for my golf swing shortened. I will be the first to acknowledge that entry into my mid-life isn’t making natural athleticism any easier.

In my entrepreneurship columns, I often quote how experts have proven that you need an average of 10,000 committed hours of practice to master any skill or profession. As a professional lobbyist, I am invited to scramble more than a breakfast chef. However, I find that such times are not very productive to real advances in the little steps necessary to improve your handicap.

Sometimes on the golf course with clients or corporate colleagues a plane buzzes by and I spur up a conversation about flying. For anyone suffering on my team, my contributions to eagles and birdies are usually limited. However, if that same crew has a chance to join me elsewhere by flight, I find that they are usually more appreciative of how I have spent my past years of training and weekly flights.

During most weeks, any leisure time is very limited such that I rarely swing a club without a client or employee present. That makes the excuses a bit easier. However, due to more general aviation travel shortening the distance between my shanks and stellar courses, golf still taunts me. Just about the time that I want to banish myself from another green, I will redeem myself amidst a glorified setting.

For me, effective golf seems to share some similar philosophies as safe flying in private aviation.

First, a clear mind with a relaxed body allows for better form.  A relaxed swing is just like a smooth yet sturdy hand on the yoke, even among low ceilings or heavy rains.

Second, intense focus on the task should alienate you among your non-critical surroundings. A great tee-off amongst a group works best if you tune out your environment. The same is true in a cockpit that can easily get distracted by choppy radios, nervous passengers, or bad weather.

Third, golf’s about the journey, not the destination. Playing eighteen holes amongst friends where it’s not too fast, nor too slow is a blessing on a fair weather day. The same is true about a nice day of flying – an aviator with his heart still in the air is ready to go again – anytime, anywhere.

So, the next time you hear a plane cruise over your summer course, thank a private pilot for making someone else’s golf experience more enjoyable.